Tag Archives: romance

Review of The Raven’s Ballad (The Otherworld #5), by Emma Hamm

I’ve been very into Emma Hamm‘s books lately. This is book five in the Otherworld series. However, books one and two are a duology, as are books four and five. (I’ve not read the standalone third book). I borrowed this fifth book, The Raven’s Ballad, through Amazon Prime.

Description from Goodreads:

Once upon a time…

A curse can only be broken by luck or an impossible feat, and Aisling has tried numerous impossible feats. Every morning she changes into a swan. Every dusk she has a few moments with the man she loves, only to watch him forced into the form of a raven by the same curse.

When it becomes clear the curse is directly connected with an ancient, awakening evil, she sets off into the depths of Underhill to find answers. Unfortunately, this is a journey that must be made alone.

Bran refuses to believe there isn’t another way. Split off from his queen, he joins forces with the Seelie Fae and the Druids. Darkness spreads throughout the Raven Kingdom. Both king and queen fight to protect their people, their home, and the love they have for each other.

Review:

As I said, this is the fourth book by Emma Hamm I’ve read and I have to say it was my least favorite. That isn’t to say I didn’t like it, just that it wasn’t as strong in the things that made me love the others. Also, it’s the only one I got in kindle instead of audio. So, I suppose there’s a chance that the lack of Siobhan Waring’s narration affected me. Though, I don’t think that was the case.

The reason I say I didn’t love this one as much, is that what I liked about the previous three books in this series is that Hamm subverted a lot of the expected tropes, especially around women. Here she played into them. While this still made a readable story that I enjoyed, it didn’t light me up as much as it would have if she hadn’t. As examples (and this is a spoiler), the female villain is trying to destroy the world because she was spurned by a man. This has to be the number one most common reason women in fiction go bad. *yawn*

Also, what I most enjoyed in The Faceless Woman (the beginning of this duology) was the banter between Aisling and Bran. They spend 95% of this book apart and I missed them as a couple, even if I understood why it had to be that way.

Lastly, I noticed several copy edit mistakes. For example, ‘she’ is ‘se’ at one point and Aisling came out AIsling more than once. None of them disrupted my reading and they aren’t super common, but they are there. They may be in all the previous books too. But as I said, I listened to them, rather than read, so I wouldn’t have noticed.

I did appreciate the presence of a strong M/F platonic friendship. Neither character was even gay, thereby prohibiting a romance. Two people of opposite genders were simply allowed to love each other as family, despite there being no blood between them. I wish we could see that more often. (As a side note, I would love to see a gay pairing in this universe somewhere. I don’t even understand why creatures like the fae would conform to heteronormativity. I mean, that just seems so human and beneath them. *shrug*)

I also still liked Aisling and Bran as characters and recognize how much they grew as people, especially Bran. I look forward to reading more of Hamm’s writing.

Review of Heart of the Fae and Veins of Magic, by Emma Hamm

Last week I listened to Emma Hamm‘s The Faceless Woman and so enjoyed it that I went in search of the beginning of the series and spent this weekend listening to Heart of the Fae and Veins of Magic.

Description:

Once upon a time…

A plague sweeps across the emerald hills of Uí Néill, leaving a young midwife’s father with months to live. To save her people, Sorcha makes a deal with a dangerous Fae. She must travel across the sea, through merrow and kelpie lands, to find a forgotten king on a crumbling throne.

Born king of the Seelie Fae, Eamonn fought battles unnumbered to uphold honor, duty, and freedom… until his twin brother sank a blade between his shoulders. Crystals grew from the wound, splitting open skin and bone. His people banished him to a cursed isle for his disfigurement, now king of criminals and fools.

With the help of brownies, pixies, and will-o’-the-wisps, Sorcha battles to break through his crystalline shell and persuade him to take back his stolen throne.

This determined beauty could come dangerously close to stealing his beastly heart.

Review:

Since Heart of the Fae and Veins of Magic form a duology, neither standing alone, I’m going to write a single review encompassing both. But one of the main takeaway potential readers should understand is this point that they need both books for a complete story.

I really enjoyed this, both the story and the narration. I really like that Hamm’s fae are old school scary fae, her female characters are strong and full of agency, and her male ones aren’t afraid to show need. I especially appreciated that it was Sorcha who took the lead in most sexual situations.

My only complaint here is how very gendered everything is. While I appreciate that Hamm’s goal was to emphasize that both a king and a queen are necessary, neither an accouterment to the other. (A pleasant change from most stories that center a king and make the queen little more than an accessory or political pawn.) But the book leans hard into women being soft and kind and caring and men being violent, rough and in need of tempering. True, Sorcha had to go against that in the course of the story but it was still a strong theme in the book. (As was how much bigger he was than her, another classic gendering technique.)

All in all however, I can’t wait to dive into more of Hamm’s writing and Waring’s narration.

Review of A Bride For The Alien King & The Alien Protector’s Mate, by Roxie Ray

I received Audible codes for copies of Roxie Ray‘s A Bride for the Alien King and The Alien Protector’s Mate.

Description from Goodreads:

A fated mate is a rare gem … one I never thought I’d find.

With fifteen males born to a single female, women are my people’s most precious resource, one we’re in dire need of replenishing. And Earth is just the place to do it. Arranged matings are the only way we can survive, and as king I must set an example.

But I never thought I’d meet her.

One look at Rosa and I know she’s meant to be my queen. She’s nothing like I imagined, and more than I could ever dare wish for. But humans have only just learned that aliens exist, and I would surrender my kingdom before I forced her into a relationship she doesn’t want.

Time grows short as ancient enemies close in on my home planet, and if we don’t transport our volunteer mates quickly we will run out of time.

Review:

This was tolerable. It felt pretty formulaic though. Even worse, it very much felt like the heroine’s thought process went like this:

“This is horrible. This is taking advantage of the poor. This is human trafficking”
“I’m a king. You’d be queen.”
“Oh, sign me up.”

There was legitimately exactly that much interaction between her meeting the alien and changing her tune and flouncing off to an alien world. Much of the rest of the book was like that too. Ray hit the expected plot points but didn’t seem to put any real effort into letting it develop naturally. There was very little consistency in the technological level of the alien species. There was a distinct lack of other (non-servant) woman in the book. Even if they are born only 1-15, they should exist. And apparently, despite ostensibly being warriors and running a kingdom, the aliens have no concept of security. They let themselves be outplayed, tricked, beaten, and invaded far too many times to be believable. (See the statement above about needing to kit the expected plot point.)

All in all, not a winner for me. But the writing itself seems fine and the narrator did a fine job.

On a side note, what the hell is that cover? Beyond just being horrible in general, if you’re going to put characters on a cover, at least make an effort to make them look right. He is described as olive-toned, with scales and no horns. She’s a brunette.


Description from Goodreads:

My planet needs women, and I’m here to claim one.

Time is running out for my people, and we don’t have a moment to waste. Earthlings agreed to the bride program, but now they don’t want to follow through. It’s my job to make sure that they do.

I have no time to fall in love. After so long on my own, I wouldn’t even recognize the emotion. But the beautiful and wickedly smart human Vivian awakens something within me, a desire so strong I find myself at war with my duty. I know once she discovers the darkness within me she’ll run. I should push her away before we’re both broken.

And yet, I cannot let her go.

I owe my loyalty to my king, but if I’m forced to choose between my mate and my duty it may destroy us all.

Review:

After reading book one, I was wary about this second one. Turns out I liked it more than book one. I liked the characters and the story didn’t get quite as ridiculous. For the most part, the narrator did a fine job and the writing is pretty good. Though the dialogue gets hella formal, uncomfortable, and unnatural once they reach the alien homeworld.

But I find that almost all of my complaints about book one stand true for this one too. I’ll start with the simplest. Why does the publisher keep putting horns on the heroes on the cover? There is no mention of the Svantes having horns. This irritates me so much. It’s like the publishers are going out of their way to get it wrong. Those horns had to be added (though I realize this was probably a pre-made cover).

Next, one of the Svante’s most prominent characteristics is supposed to be that they are great warriors. But they show themselves to be incompetent again and again. It’s just not believable. Part of this might stem from the fact that Ray seems to refuse to populate the books with anyone except the few named characters. They seem to do everything and there doesn’t seem to be anyone in the background. So, the queen has two guards and no more. The same two Svantes that are on the ship with the main character are also the communication specialists on the planet. It’s like the whole castle has a population of maybe 10.

Similarly, there are far too few non-mate (or non-named) female characters, even on earth. Where we should at least see women (passing on the street, as a soldier, as a co-worker, etc) we just never do. I feel this so much. We’re erased from the universe. I think this partly has to do with what I said above about Ray not including extra people to populate the background of the book. All we’re left with are the characters who are given explicit purpose in the book—the named characters and a few ‘guards.’ It’s not that there are no actual women, it’s that there are no women that don’t serve a given and obvious purpose to the plot. It leaves the impression that the whole rest of the world is male except those few exceptions.

Lastly, a lot of this plot hinges on contrived angst and misunderstanding. But one of them can read minds. I don’t care how noble the idea of not intruding on her privacy is. As insecure and in need of reassurance as the hero was there isn’t a chance in hell he wouldn’t peak in her mind. It’s like the author just forgot this aspect of his character entirely for 95% of the book.

All in all, as I said, I liked it better than book one. But I’m unconvinced that I’d want to listen to the next one.